Blog Post

Oh, Hello!

Oh, Hello!

Dear HASTAC-Community,

I hope you are all doing well and looking forward to an exciting new scholarly year. My name is Sarah and I am a fourth year doctoral candidate in the German Department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I am so grateful to be part of the HASTAC Scholar cohort of 2016-2017 and to have the opportunity to work with Vivian Finch at the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt (thank you so much!).

In this upcoming year, I am going to explore the intersections of literary texts in the foreign language classroom and mapping technologies. I am looking forward to discussing ideas, challenges, and assessments of collaborative learning projects in the HASTAC community. As a method to foster geographical and cultural knowledge, I hope that digital mapping, allows a more deep understanding of how different regions form diverse communities and influence the building of national and individual identities.

Currently, I am working with “Google my maps” in an intermediate German language classroom, which was my first choice due to its easy accessibility, students’ familiarity, and its intuitive user interface. While Google My Maps has several advantages, the platform itself underlies various limitations as well, for example the limit of 10 layers that can be added to the map. However, Google My Maps seems to be a great starting point for my classroom project. In the future I would like to learn more about other platforms that allow working with different layers of time and that allow to include various types of media such as audio or apps like “Quizlet” in a comfortable way. 

Who or what inspired me to use Google My Maps in the classroom?

The importance of geographical knowledge in the foreign language classrooms is often neglected. Students have the ability to look at maps printed in textbooks or read various texts about individual life stories, the history, or events in certain regions, but often lack a deeper understanding of the nuances and historical developments of various areas of the country of the target language. As someone who enjoys teaching language through a meaningful cultural context, a mapping project seemed to be a promising adventure for my intermediate language & literature classroom. Mapping activities allow my students to engage more deeply with the geography of the target countries while at the same time they can explore the history, politics, and culture of a specific language area through literary texts.

Inspired by the project “A Literary Atlas of Europe,” which “aims to develop an interactive atlas as a research tool for spatial analysis of literature,” and guided by the article “10 Ways to use Google Maps in the classroom” as well as the support of Vanderbilt Universities CSLS “Geographical Space in World Literatures“ research cluster - I was eager to try out digital mapping in my intermediate foreign language classroom as well.[1]

Is virtual travel a tool for inclusive education?

Students often times do not have the ability, time, or money to travel to the countries of the target language for an immersive experience. “Virtual” travel is a way to possibly mimic this immersive experience. Ideally, Google My Maps allows each student to have a unique travel experience guided by an exploration of the target country on the student's own pace, time, and comfort. Enthusiastic about the idea that digital “mapping” has the ability to democratize the immersive experience for each student in the classroom – I was ready to plan the first collaborative learning project, which I will discuss in my next post.  

Cheers, Sarah!

P.S. In the beginning of November, I am going to attend a workshop on “Assessment, Implicit Bias, and the Impact on Student Learning” at the Center for Teaching. I am hoping to learn more about "implicit bias," and what implicit biases might reveal in my assessment and use of mapping technologies in the classroom. Of course technology use in the classroom can exclude students due to the lack of accessibility of the technology, but luckily I am able to provide each student with access to a laptop or IPad, as well as give them further tutorials on how to work with Google my maps during and after class. Afer all, maybe the use of digital mapping tools it not as inclusive as I envision them to be – I will keep you updated.

[1] Thank you Todd Hughes for showing me ways to think critically and creative about “Spreadsheet” design for my first basic mapping attempts.



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